Gators Take Series From Arkansas

Mike Zunino singled home the game winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Gator baseball team a 2-1 win over Arkansas Sunday afternoon, handing Florida the series by that same 2-to-1 margin.

Florida entered the weekend knowing that a win over Arkansas was critical to staying in the SEC race and they did just that. Florida topped the SEC leading Razorbacks 8-2 Saturday to set the stage for the series-deciding game on Sunday.

The game was delayed almost two and a half hours due to rain in the Gainesville area. But once play began it was all about pitching. Florida freshman Brian Johnson matched scoreless innings with Arkansas' Randall Flint until Preston Tucker broke up the scoreless tie with his eighth HR of the season.

That 1-0 carried through the middle innings as Johnson continued to dominate Arkansas hitters. He left after seven innings, holding the top scoring team in the SEC to just three hits while striking out nine batters. The 1-0 lead ended in the 8thy, however when Florida closer Kevin Chapman gave up a HR to Collin Kuhn to tie the game with two out in the ninth.

It was still 1-1 with one out in the bottom of the ninth when Johnson came to the plate as a hitter with one out in the ninth and delivered a base hit. Cody Dent entered the game as a pinch runner and advance to scoring position on a single by senior Matt den Dekker. Mike Zunino then added a single to right to score Dent to give the Gators a 2-1 win.

Florida improved to 28-11, 12-6 in the SEC with the win while Arkansas falls to 13-5 in the league and 33-8 overall. Both teams appear to be in great position for an NCAA bid, but taking a series from a team in the top ten in three of the four baseball polls has to help the Gators chances of hosting a regional and perhaps a super regional as well.

Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan talked about the win on his post-game show on Rock-104 and the IMG Gator Radio Network.

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On a low scoring game in the SEC on a Sunday:

"It was an outstanding game by both teams. Both teams only made one error. Both teams only walked one guy. Both starting pitchers did an excellent job and their bullpen did an outstanding job. They are ranked where they are for a reason. They are an outstanding team but you really have to tip your hat to Brian Johnson. He was outstanding today."

On Johnson coming back strong after missing last week with a minor injury:

"I think it hurt him not to be with us last week to be honest with you. He's a team guy all the way and he wants the Gators to win a national championship as bad as anybody. Obviously he did work hard to get back and he was outstanding. He had all three pitches working against a really good lineup."

On Johnson getting the hit to start the game winning rally:

"He was a nicknames called ‘The Natural' and he hadn't taken (batting practice) in two weeks. He comes out and takes B.P. on Friday and comes out (Saturday) and has a good game and obviously put a good swing on a guy who's had our number."

On taking the series after losing the opener Friday night:

"It shows a lot of grit. You lose the first game pretty handily Friday night and two freshmen Hudson Randall and Brian Johnson pitch outstanding against arguably one of the best two teams in the country. I'm really proud of how they competed. They didn't hang there heads after Friday night, and any time you win a series you have to be proud of your team."

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The Gators have the mid week off for finals before hosting LSU in another critical SEC series next weekend. LSU is the defending NCAA Champion.


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